Although the economy is less robust than it has been in years past and holiday decorations can be seen in stores before the little ghosts and goblins collect all their candy, shoppers still look to the day after Thanksgiving as the official beginning of the holiday shopping season.
Many people forego the turkey and all the trimmings every year to stand, sit or even sleep in line at their favorite store on Thanksgiving Day so they can be one of the lucky ones to take advantage of the rock-bottom, Black Friday deals. This year will be no different.
With a long line expected to begin on Thanksgiving Day, safety is the number one priority for Cris Armada, General Manager, March Main Exchange, who took over that position Aug. 1, 2013.
“Don’t rush. If we hand you a ticket, you are guaranteed that you will get that item,” Armada said. “If you have a ticket, you can go home and come back later and get it. We are doing our best to be organized.”
As in the past, high-value, popular items will be ticketed. Then two hours prior to the 4 a.m. opening, Exchange personnel will begin at the front of the line verifying ID cards and handing out tickets according to what the customer requests. One ticket per item will be allowed per person.
Since arriving, Armada has made minor changes to bring March Main Exchange facilities up to standards and to decrease loss prevention issues, he said.
“We’ve cut our expenses, such as office supplies, by 35 percent and anything else that we could cut,” Armada said. “We are trying to boost morale by giving our employees more hours during this hiring freeze. We’ve lost some valuable employees because they could not afford to live in this area any longer.
As an incentive for employees, Armada tries to have some internal contests running based on sales and how customers feel. He said that customer comment cards are located at each register, as well as at www.aafes.com, for customers to fill out.
“We encourage positive and negative comments so we can reward or correct as needed. That’s the only way we can improve on ourselves,” Armada said.
Black Friday customer incentives include merchandise raffles every two hours and giveaways, excluding gift cards, which they are no longer authorized to give out.
“We can offer customer service, competitive prices and no sales tax, which is an extra savings,” Armada said.
The number of items a store receives is based on the size of the exchange and its customer base. March is a smaller base, so they don’t get as many items as large, active duty bases, but they do their best to accommodate the customer by ordering what they want from another location if it is not in stock, Armada said. For instance, although they don’t stock it, they can order furniture by request, he added.
Given the current state of the economy, I want us to be the customer’s first choice. It will be tough all around this year.